2015 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 8 MOTEGI GT 250km RACE
- November 14, 2015 Qualifying：3rd
- November 15, 2015 Finals：2nd
Reached the podium at Twin Ring Motegi, the final race of the season.
■Saturday, November 14 – Placed a season best 3rd in the rainy qualifying race!
The 2015 Super GT season that started in April came to a close at Twin Ring Motegi. It had been a season full of challenges for GOODSMILE RACING & TeamUKYO. The team wanted to finish with a good result and end the season on a high note.
The team had run tests twice at Twin Ring Motegi. The tests of both try and wet track proved to be effective, as during the free practice session on the morning of the 14th the team posted times that would have easily put them toward the top of the leader board.
Taniguchi posted a time of 1’56.825 and finished the free practice time in 4th place.
Between the free practice and the qualifying race were events such as the circuit safari and the pit walk. Rain kept falling as Taniguchi began the first lap. While he was unable to get into the top three, after an “attack lap” he posted a time of 1’58.193 and finished safely in 6th place.
The second lap was in the hands of Kataoka, who is a Graded Driver (a driver who has completed 100 races) on the Motegi track. Since the rain was picking up, Kataoka went on the attack quickly after entering the track. With a time of 2’02.752, he was in 2nd place. This strategy proved to work, as nearing the end of the race the other drivers had a hard time putting up fast times. With just a few minutes remaining, #31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT put up a time of 2’00.602 and took over the lead spot. Kataoka fell to 3rd and ended up finishing the second qualifier in that spot. It was the highest the team had placed in the qualifying rounds all season. It would put them in grid position 3 for the final the following day.
■Sunday, November 13 – Expectations are high with a start in the 3rd grid spot!
This marked the first time in awhile that the team had started a final race in one of the top starting positions. It was the perfect position to fulfill the team’s hope of ending the season with a win.
On the morning of the 15th, light showers passed through, but the times posted were faster than the qualifying races. Kataoka posted a time of 1’57.587, and this was the top time for a portion of the race, but in the end #31 posted a time of 1’57.363 and took over the lead. However, the times were so close that the team still had hopes to win.
The rain stopped just before the final race, and there were even breaks in the clouds where the sun could be seen. The track was still wet, so the team put on the rain tires and lined up in the grid. For the grid walk, most teams were still unable to decide between slick and rain tires, and so many teams had both tires ready to go. But just then a sudden rain shower hit the track. It stopped soon, but the rainfall had been quite heavy, so the team decided that the track would probably not be dry for the first half of the race and put on the rain tires.
Kataoka was in the driver’s seat for the beginning of the race. In the first lap, with the tires not quite warmed up yet, he passed the #11 GAINER TANAX SLS, and quickly moved into 2nd place. The first-place car, #31, had a lead of 1 second/lap over the other cars, thus began to set up to pull away from the pack.
The #11 car, which Kataoka had passed, kept up the pace and came close to the Miku SLS. It caught up in the 10th lap, overtook Kataoka, and began to pull away. The #55 ARTA CR-Z GT, which was in its last race of the season, had started in 13th, but also began to show amazing speed and catch up.
Kataoka managed to hold on to 3rd place for a little while longer, but in the 18th lap #55 began to catch up, and even after some hard defensive driving by Kataoka, was able to pass. Even though Kataoka had dropped to 4th place, he managed to keep biting into #55’s small lead.
■ The team takes advantage of the caution period and makes it onto the podium in 2nd place!
The team had hoped to wait until the track surface was dry to have a pit stop, but the track was drying slower than expected. However, after the 20th lap, the lines started to dry, so the team had a pit stop at the 22nd lap. There they changed to slick tires and Taniguchi took over the driving.
Taniguchi was in 5th place after the out lap, so the loss from the pit stop was kept to a minimum. Just when it was time to begin working to catch up, the GT300 and GT500 crashed. The safety car came in during the 24th lap, when Taniguchi was in 3rd. The only car in front of Taniguchi that hadn’t yet made a pit stop was the #31, so Taniguchi was effectively in second. Just in front of him was the rival #11 car. On the 29th lap the safety car left the track and normal racing resumed. It was time to go after #11.
The tires kicked in, and Taniguchi was off in hot pursuit of #11. He successfully passed #11 in the 32nd lap and was in the top position. Taniguchi continued to post personal best times and began to draw away from the pack. However, #31, which he thought had dropped down in the rankings while the safety car was on the track, was coming up fast to pass #11 and move up into 2nd place.
#31, a hybrid capable of putting out incredible speed, began to come after the SLS. Taniguchi kept putting up top times and tried his best to protect his lead position, but in the 39th lap he was passed and fell to 2nd place.
#31 went on to gain a 3 second lead over Taniguchi but began losing pace with just 3 laps to go. In the final lap Taniguchi came up just behind #31 and there was only a .9 second gap, but he was unable to get around #31. He finished the race in second place.
The 2015 season seemed to be a long, dark tunnel – there never seemed to be any light no matter how far the team had come. With this final race, they were finally able to get out of that dark tunnel and onto the podium. It was a great finish to the season.
With a little luck, and some good chances, the team was able to do all they could and had the best result. It’s a little sad that we couldn’t catch up to #31, but it can’t be helped. Even if the hard fight with #11 didn’t shut them out, we were able to come out on top. It was a great race to end the season on.
It’s our first 2nd place finish in a long time, so I’m happy, but I also have some regrets. The timing of the safety car was an advantage to us, but a disadvantage to #31, so it seemed like God was on our side. However, in the end #31 didn’t have that much of a loss and returned to the race in 4th place. #31’s speed was completely different after that, so it ended up not being much of a competition.
Even so, we were 1st among the FIA-GT3 cars, and the drivers and team did everything they could, so I’m satisfied with the results.
#31 was fast, but we were able to make it to the pit with good timing, and the safety car coming in was also good for us timing-wise. In the end #31 passed us, but I think it was a really good race.
This isn’t just limited to GSR but showing the fans the strength of our team is a great thing for the growing popularity of motor sports.
We were out for a win at Motegi today but came up against really fast rivals and some unfavorable weather. I knew that the Prius and the GT-R were fast, but I really wanted to win against #11, so that’s why we went with the SLS.
Kataoka was able to secure 3rd place for us in the qualifier, which was a good position for us to try and go for the win today. The timing of the safety car was also good for us. We were suddenly on fire there being at the top for a little bit, but #31 was faster and lighter, and made pretty quick work of passing us. The pace was way faster than the Z4 last year.
In the end we were able to win against #11, so I’m happy with that, but a little sad that we were only able to finish second.
Even though we placed second, there was a huge difference between us and the first-place car, #31. There have been lots of disappointing races for us this season, but we were able to race today with out any troubles and make it to the podium, and the team came together without any mistakes so I’m happy with that, but I’m still a little bit unsatisfied with the race.
We were finally able to make it to the podium and show that to our sponsors, so while I can’t say all’s well that ends well, I’m glad that we got to end things on a positive note.